The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a female high school student in my teens. I feel pain each and every day as my hospitalized grandmother keeps asking a lot of favors of me.
My grandmother broke her leg over the summer. It’s fine that she asks me to bring her things, but she often says, “I don’t understand why you were so slow.” Sometimes she even asks me to buy gifts for the nurses.
I’ve heard that she laments, “I wonder if she hates me,” to those around her when I don’t visit.
Once when I was preparing to leave the hospital, she said, “If you hate coming to see me that much, I’m better off dead.” That remark was especially hurtful.
It’s true that I’m late sometimes because of cram school and other matters, but I was very shocked when I heard about her comment.
After she asks me for something or complains to me in the morning, she’ll follow up with emails or phone calls around midday and at night. I want her to be more considerate of me, but if I say something, she might respond, “Would it be better if I die?”
How should I handle this situation?
J, Saitama Prefecture
Dear Ms. J:
Your grandmother is a difficult person to deal with. I think she’s proud of you as a granddaughter. That said, your relationship shouldn’t exclusively suit her convenience. I recommend you consider this an important opportunity to mature and challenge yourself to be a granddaughter who can say no.
To change her behavior, you must first sort out everything you can and cannot do. Next, you should tell her what you are unable to do. When you’re tired, it’s important to tell her your fatigue has reached its limits, and you should tell her you can’t reply to her texts when you’re busy.
She’s become overdependent on you out of fear and loneliness following her hospitalization. She doesn’t hesitate to flash her bad mood and threaten you with comments like, “I’d rather die if you don’t want to visit me.” This remark arose from her reliance on you.
When she says such things, you should tell her, “That really hurt, and I hate hearing things like that because I feel threatened.” You can also say, “I want to respect you so it really hurts when you say those things to me.”
Your grandmother is an adult in terms of age but is not longer aware that she is an adult. To improve her maturity, you need to have the courage to say “no” when there is something you cannot do.
This may be difficult, but I suggest you should learn to say “no” to your dearest people, as doing so will help you in the future.
Junko Umihara, psychiatrist